YouTube, please give me an iTunes link!

On: September 9, 2010
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About Janice Wong
Janice Wong is an Australian-born cellist and digital media fanatic living the life in Amsterdam (The Netherlands). She graduated from the Masters of New Media programme at the University of Amsterdam in 2011 and worked at adidas as a Global Social Media Manager until 2017. She is now a Music Producer & Cellist based in Amsterdam. Contact: janice[at]


YouTube does not endorse infringement of copyright. But with so many newly uploaded videos per day, YouTube has had to come up with alternatives to terminating the accounts of every poor 14 year old who decides to make a slideshow to their favourite Lady Gaga song. Now on certain videos, there are advertising links to iTunes if you use an available song.

This raises many questions: is it or is it not an infringement of copyright if YouTube allows advertising on your video? How does one get a link from iTunes? Is it automated? If the link does not appear, does this mean my video infringes copyright more than a video that has a link? Does a user upload copyrighted material in ‘hope’ that their video gets a link rather than their account terminated?

In May this year, Nuffic held a video contest on their YouTube channel Study in Holland,  to promote Holland as a destination for higher education. The winning prize was a 13″ Apple MacBook Pro.

The task was simple. To create a video/ slideshow/ animation between 1-5 minutes of what the ultimate student experience in Holland is. And the following rules:

  • All entries must be the original work of the entrant and must not infringe copyright or contravene the rights of third parties.
  • Entries that do not meet the requirements (length, deadline, etc.) cannot be accepted.

No problem. Right? Until I sent a link of one of the entries [Video Contest entry by Jeanette Calder] to a friend living in Germany, but it was unavailable* due to Sony music content – Jordin Sparks – This Is My Now. [note: *YouTube blocks certain videos in Germany because “GEMA” (the German collecting society) is asking too much for their broadcasting licences. A similar restriction exists in UK.]

This got me thinking. This entrant had used copyrighted content that belongs to Sony, and unless the entrant was Sony, the composer of the song or even Jordin Sparks herself, the video did not contain all original content.

A few days later, the winner was announced: Claudia Jarufe Montagne from Peru with DISCOVER HOLLAND 2009. It was a brilliant video, which well captured the student life in Holland in a creative way, and one that deserved to take the cake.

But what did I see there?

Phoenix – Lisztomania              Download This Song: iTunes

Just like the video with Jordin Sparks, this was also not a video with original content; original video footage yes, but the audio is owned by WMG, performed by the French band Phoenix, not Claudia Jarufe Montagne from Peru.

YouTube allowed the video to stay, in exchange for iTunes advertising link for the song.

As a musician with interests in Copyright, IP and now a student of New Media, even before the winner was announced, I decided to flag the issue with Nuffic, to advise them that not all entrants were using ‘original’ music (is anyone paying attention to the rules?), and students in Germany for example were unable to view videos with copyrighted material [in other words: entrants with copyrighted material are not eligible to win].

This is the response I received:

from Study in Holland <————–>
to Janice Wong <——–>
date 28 June 2010 13:10
subject RE: Study in Holland video contest

Hi Janice,

Thanks for the warning. We got an email from YouTube stating that we did not have to take any action. When I open the link here, I can see the video, and its linked to iTunes for downloading the music. But it’s a good thing to keep in mind when we publish all the entries!

Best wishes,
Study in Holland

I am no expert in copyright, but I do believe Nuffic, as an official body representing Holland worldwide in higher education should have taken more responsibility with copyright. The issue is, even though YouTube allowed advertising for using copyrighted music, the Nuffic contest rule stated “All entries must be the original work of the entrant and must not infringe copyright,” and should have been judged fairly and accordingly.

Perhaps if I knew in advance that an entry would not be disqualified with copyrighted music I would have made a video with a soundtrack from the likes of Ms. Gaga and asked Youtube, to please give an iTunes link!

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